Yesterday was June 6th, 2016. Exactly two months until I will be standing in front of my groom, making a covenant before friends, family, and most importantly, God, committing to spending the rest of my earthly life loving, serving, and working alongside my best-friend in marriage. It’s the single most important day of my life. To be honest, I haven’t really freaked out…until now. It’s moments like these where I think about the gravity of it and a tinge of nervousness sets in. I only recently began to feel the nerves. You see, to tell you the truth, the past month of wedding planning…although fun…has been one of the hardest, most spiritually-depriving seasons I’ve ever walked through. Ouch. That sounds really crappy, I know. And I’m sorry for being a total Debbie-downer in such an excited season. But, it’s only fair that I explain why:
Taylor and I get along great. Hanging out with him for the rest of forever is something I SO look forward to. We laugh, a lot. But more so than getting along great, we decided to marry because spiritually, our relationship is unlike anything either of us have ever experienced. Since the very first day we met, our friendship revolved around really deep talks about God and life. We would spend nights sitting in the car chatting about what Jesus had done with us and in us, how He’d changed us, what we’ve walked through, the people we’ve met, the burdens we’ve carried. We talked about our frustrations, our hopes, our dreams. But more so than talked, we prayed. A lot. We spent hours on our faces begging God to transform the hearts of friends around us and bring people to life. One night, in the very beginning of our relationship, while we had been spending some time praying, I remember looking over to my right, and seeing my new boyfriend in tears, weeping over the broken people around him, begging God to make him look more like Jesus, so he can be used in their lives. I couldn’t believe I had the privilege to call this man mine. I so imagined the joy I would experience to one day call him my husband. Our vulnerability before God and before each other in those first few months led us to experience some deep spiritual intimacy. Nights of prayer for others were coupled with nights of prayer for us, our future.
From there, we glided straight into engagement. Taylor and I have the same passions: international ministry. We’ve spent countless hours daydreaming about falling in love with another culture, learning another language, losing ourselves in another country. Marriage was almost a given from the moment we met. The craziest part? We were so sure, so soon, because none of it had ever been about us. It had always, from the very initial moment, been about Jesus first, and other people second. There had never been any pressure for Taylor to make me happy, because, well I knew he doesn’t have the ability to fulfill that really heavy burden. He’s only human, after all.
I knew I was a soon-to-be-fiancé the couple of weeks leading to our engagement. Taylor had been busy planning the perfect proposal, and I had been busy planning the perfect nail color and Pinterest wedding board. It wasn’t long before our nights of prayer turned into nights of planning. Right after our engagement came grad-school finals, which turned our nights of bible-studies into nights of paper-writing. A beautiful engagement party followed with signs that read, “Soon To Be Burringtons.” We were given gifts, bottles of wine, congratulations, hugs, kisses. So. Much. Love. My heart leaps when I think about the love I have received from my bridesmaids—they’re surprises and secret planning. “It’s YOUR day. YOU do what YOU want!” is something I’ve been told over and over. I get to tell people what to do for ME, without batting an eye. Friends and family respond to MY requests with a smile. Every detail matters, right? How I look, what I wear, it NEEDS to be perfect, doesn’t it? From the guestbook, to the flowers. We, as humans, love the attention. And right now, it’s all resting on me. This should make me feel really…good…shouldn’t it?
Well, friends, for some reason I am experiencing the opposite of good feels. As the days get closer, I find myself feeling more and more anxious. Why am I uneasy? Why am I suddenly freaking out, when before I only felt a peaceful excitement? Everyone seems to be serving ME, meeting MY needs. I’m ultimately getting what I want, after all.
Prior to our engagement, Taylor and I walked through a beautifully-difficult season where we had to painfully leave our (well, his) church. Because of the gravity of all that had been happening, we had spent weeks and months practicing complete self-denial in order for us to hear clearly from God. We wanted to make the best decision for our future, and we knew that only God could make that decision for us, so we spent weeks fasting from food, social media, and really anything that would distract us from hearing His voice. In the midst of our self-denial—our complete purging of all that isn’t God—we not only heard Him speak to us about our situation, but every other area of our lives were filled with peace, joy and so much spiritual fruit that we spent nights weeping with joy from all that God was doing. Life was kinda creepy. Good creepy. Like, we would pray for something and the very next morning it would be answered in the most miraculous way. We could hardly believe our lives were actually our lives. I felt like I was reading my story in the book of Acts.
But inevitably so, once wedding planning began, our self-denial turned into self-indulgence. Life quickly became less about denying ourselves and more so about feeding our prideful desires. Before we knew it, we cared more about the way our invitations were cut, then about the people in our lives that needed God’s love. Our Spirits began to thirst, as we watered and fed our egos. Time and energy began being spent decorating our new apartment and finalizing our guest list. Days that had once been filled with tears of joy and God’s presence were replaced with anxious talks about finances, and frustrated sighs when things didn’t go as we had planned.
Now, this sounds like a sad story, but it isn’t. It’s a real one. Because, well, life is real…and sometimes you don’t always get things right the first time around. The beautiful thing about Jesus, though, is that He councils, restores and redeems—making things new and beautiful, even more beautiful than they were the first time around. He allows you to get it wrong, realize where you did, and then gives you an opportunity to get it right. You see, Sunday was a tough day for me. I found myself spiritually deprived, realizing where things had gone wrong—realizing I had been way too self-focused for way too long. I found myself dying to spiritually connect once again with a fiancé who felt so distant, yet oddly so, considering I had been spending almost every waking moment with him. I got up that morning and read through 15 chapters of 1st Chronicles, desperate to hear from Jesus. We went to church and during worship I sat on my knees, tears rolling down my face, asking God why I felt so empty.
“Well, what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?
…Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
And there it was. I was gently reminded that I had lost myself in trying to gain the whole world—the perfect wedding—everything I wanted, exactly how I wanted it. In the midst of anxiously trying to plan my future, I had neglected to actually just let it go. I had allowed myself to be consumed with, well, myself, while my soul starved for nourishment in the only thing that could strengthen it: Jesus.
Sweet friend, I share my vulnerable account to remind you that life isn’t found in trying to gain, keep, and indulge in yourself. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Life is found in losing it. This difficult season has reminded me that there is no joy in ME, but in denying myself for the sake of HIM. When you live your life completely consumed with meeting your own selfish desires, you continue to hit a wall, realizing it’s going to take more and more to satisfy you. Kinda like a junkie who keeps consuming more and more drugs. Or a narcissist who can’t seem to get enough of himself. My marriage will be a sad and empty one if I treat it the way I’ve been treating my wedding. The details won’t sustain us when times get hard. The comfort won’t be our foundation. Joy, peace, and love are all found outside of ourselves. They are only found when we lose ourselves in Jesus.
Beloved, lose yourself today. Deny all that wants to indulge in you, and indulge in the Giver and Creator of life. Allow yourself that peace today. Lose yourself in HIS unending love.